Wise Woman Wednesdays: Yelena Bryksenkova

It's no secret that we have a soft spot for illustrators-- but there's something about Yelena Bryksenkova's art that draws us in even more than most. Her talent for perfectly illustrating the small, private moments in life is only matched, paradoxically, by her widespread appeal-- her client list includes such culture & fashion cornerstones as BUST Magazine and Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. We were so excited to speak to Yelena for Wise Woman Wednesday-- read on to learn more about her approach to daily mindfulness and the simple pleasure of a completed to-do list.

How were you first drawn to your art?
I became interested in drawing when I was in high school, and it wasn’t until I went to art school that I discovered illustration. It felt like a great fit for me, and I haven’t looked back since. I love working on personal paintings -- it’s where a lot of my breakthroughs happen -- but there’s something very enjoyable about working within constraints, too, and finding ways to rise to a new challenge.

What does it mean to you to live creatively & authentically?
Letting art inform my life, and vice versa. Finding a beautiful and pleasing way of experiencing even the most menial tasks. I started consciously making an effort to do this a couple of years ago, and it makes life feel beautiful, even on the most ordinary day. And I don’t mean pretending like everything is perfect, I mean learning to accept that bad moods and insecurity and all that stuff that slows me down sometimes is part of the experience of being human, but also remembering that there are often small ways in which I can adjust my perception of them, or even channel those experiences into a personal painting. I love this concept amor fati or "love of fate”-- the idea that the good and the bad are equal and necessary components to a full life.

How would you describe your aesthetic?
My painting style is quite intricate with lots of patterns and bright, limited color palettes, very much influenced by Eastern European folk art. In life I have a more minimal and neutral aesthetic; our home is all white, wood and plants, where visual interest comes mostly from texture rather than color or pattern.

What’s on your current listening rotation?
The album People Can’t Stop Chillin by Sports

What’s one place you can always return to for inspiration?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art; I always leave it with a kind of restless energy and a desire to immediately do something better than everything I have done before.

What does a typical day in your life look like?
I have breakfast with my boyfriend, and after he leaves for work I take my cup of tea and head to my home studio, where I spend pretty much all of my day. The day is shaped by the tasks at hand, so I could spend the morning responding to commission inquiries and feedback from art directors, and then working on sketches and final paintings in the afternoon. Sometimes my Etsy shop can get a little busy, in which case I spend the majority of my day making, packaging and shipping prints. In the evenings I go to my Zumba class and then we make dinner and chill.

What does the idea of a “wise woman” mean to you? Who represents this for you?
A wise woman is someone who knows how to say no and how to ask for what she wants without feeling guilty, both in her personal and professional life. She understands that her time and opinions are as valuable as those of others, and acts accordingly, but with utter poise. I imagine Michelle Obama is this kind of person.

What icon or totem would you choose to represent you and your life?
An elephant. I’ve always been drawn to them.

“I feel best when I am surrounded by…” 
The man I love, our houseplants, favorite books and a completed to-do list.

What wise woman should we interview next?
Becca Stadtlander, a beautiful illustrator and my BFF.

Thanks again to Yelena for answering our questions so insightfully! You can find her and her work here.